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Design, manage & evaluate youth programs


Does your program make a difference? How do you know? Evaluating your program is critical for sustaining a successful youth program. View research and learn how to measure satisfaction, impact and outcomes for program staff, volunteers and youth.

Reports & articles

4-H Science: Evaluating Across Sites to Critically Examine Training of Adult Facilitators
Produced by Extension: Pamela Larson Nippolt
As 4-H Youth Development focuses on developing and delivering high quality STEM learning experiences, the issues related to the preparation of the adults who facilitate learning with youth are important to address. This paper outlines a five-state pilot project funded by the 3M Foundation to test a model for training adult facilitators. 2012

North Central Region 4-H Volunteers: Documenting Their Contributions and Volunteer Development
Produced by Extension: Pamela Larson Nippolt, Sue Pleskac, Vicki Schwartz, Doug Swanson
Documenting volunteer contributions strengthens Extension partnerships with volunteers. A team of North Central Region 4-H volunteer specialists collaborated to conduct a study of 4-H volunteer contributions and impacts related to working with youth within the 4-H program. Over three thousand (3,332) 4-H volunteers from throughout the 12-state North Central Region completed the survey. Volunteers are critical partners to the success of 4-H, making it possible for millions of young people to have access to 4-H programs. 2012

From Soft Skills to Hard Data: Measuring Youth Program Outcomes (PDF)
Forum for Youth Investment
Out-of-school time programs can help youth develop skills and attributes they need to be ready for college, work and life, but few have the tools to effectively measure those outcomes. This guide reviews eight youth outcome measurement tools appropriate for use in after-school and other settings. 2011

A Meta-Analysis of After-School Programs That Seek to Promote Personal and Social Skills in Children and Adolescents
Joseph Durlak, Roger Weissberg, Molly Pachan
A meta-analysis of after-school programs that seek to enhance the personal and social skills of children and adolescents indicated that, compared to controls, participants demonstrated significant increases in their self-perceptions and bonding to school, positive social behaviors, school grades and levels of academic achievement, and significant reductions in problem behaviors. 2010

Building Opportunity: Developing City Systems to Expand and Improve After School Programs
Martha Holleman, M. Jane Sundius, Eric Bruns
This paper presents the community context and underlying principles that drove the development of Baltimore’s After-School Strategy; articulates a set of system components derived from this experience and the available literature; and lays out future work to expand high quality after-school opportunities for youth in Baltimore and in other distressed urban environments. 2010

Developing and Improving After-School Programs to Enhance Youth’s Personal Growth and Adjustment: A Special Issue of AJCP
Joseph Durlak, Joseph, Mahoney, Amy Bohnert, Maria Parente
This introductory article overviews the historical and current context of ASPs and then describes a developmental ecological model to guide research in this area. 2010

Dilemmas of Practice: Challenges to Program Quality Encountered by Youth Program Leaders
Produced by Extension: Reed Larson and Kate Walker
To create and sustain high quality youth development programs it is important to understand the challenging situations and dilemmas that emerge in program leaders’ daily work with youth. In this research the experiences of leaders in 12 programs were followed over a 2–9 month period, which led to the identification of 250 dilemma situations. 2010

Does the Amount of Participation in Afterschool Programs Relate to Developmental Outcomes? A Review of the Literature
Jodie Roth, Lizabeth Malone, Jeanne Brooks-Gunn
Contrary to the findings from previous reviews we found little support for the general notion that greater amounts of participation in afterschool programs was related to academic, behavioral, or socio-emotional outcomes. 2010

Engagement in After-School Programs as a Predictor of Social Competence and Academic Performance
David Shernoff
Using the experience sampling method, this study examined two questions related to outcomes associated with after-school programming. First, does the quality of experience in after-school programs mediate the effect of program participation on social competence and academic performance? Second, among program participants, is the difference in quality of experience when in programs versus other settings after school related to higher social competence and academic performance?  2010

Implementation Quality and Positive Experiences in After-School Programs
Amanda Brown Cross, Denise Gottfredson, Denise Wilson, Melissa Rorie, Nadine Connell
Data collected during an evaluation of a multi-site trial of an enhanced after-school program were used to relate quality of program implementation to student experiences after school.  2010

Inside the Black Box: Assessing and Improving Quality in Youth Programs
Nicole Yohalem and Alicia Wilson-Ahlstrom
This paper describes what is known about the relation between youth program quality and youth developmental outcomes, summarizes different quality assessment tools being used in the field, and discusses how such tools are being used to drive systemic quality improvement efforts. 2010

Investing in Success: Key Strategies for Building Quality in After-School Programs
Jessica Sheldon, Amy Arbreton, Leigh Hopkins, Jean Baldwin Grossman
This paper examines the relation between the implementation quality of after-school literacy activities and student reading gains. 2010

More Than Attendance: The Importance of After-School Program Quality
Barton Hirsch, Megan Mekinda, JulieAnn Stawicki
In this commentary, we discuss why student engagement, program characteristics and implementation, staff training, and citywide policy are key considerations in the effort to define and achieve high quality programs for youth. 2010

Quality at the Point of Service: Profiles of Practice in After-School Settings
Charles Smith, Stephen Peck, Anne-Sophie Denault, Juliane Blazevski, Tom Akiva
Staff practices in after-school settings were represented on a series of unidimensional scales closely indexed to staff behavior.  2010

Specific Features of After-School Program Quality: Associations with Children’s Functioning in Middle Childhood
Kim Pierce, Daniel Bolt, Deborah Lowe Vandell
This longitudinal study examined associations between three after-school program quality features (positive staff–child relations, available activities, programming flexibility) and child developmental outcomes (reading and math grades, work habits, and social skills with peers) in Grade 2 and then Grade 3. 2010

Understanding and Improving the Effectiveness of After-School Practice
Robert Granger
This article draws on the work in this volume and related studies to suggest that there is an emerging consensus on the importance of staff-youth interactions as a determinant of program effectiveness. 2010

Highlights from Out-of-School Time Database (PDF)
E. Harris
This research update explores two major themes: Using evaluation to shape program improvement and planning, and out-of-school time benefits to older youth and their families. 2008

Youth Participatory Evaluation (YPE)
ACT for Youth Center of Excellence
Youth participatory evaluation (YPE) is an approach that engages young people in evaluating the programs, organizations, and systems designed to serve them. Through YPE, young people conduct research on issues and experiences that affect their lives, developing knowledge about their community that can be shared and put to use. 2008

Using Numbers to Tell 4-H Success Stories (PDF)
Produced by Extension: Mary Marczak
An article showing that charts, tables, and graphs can be effectively used to tell 4-H success stories. 2000

Related organizations

David P. Weikart Center for Youth Program Quality
The David P. Weikart Center for Youth Program Quality empowers education and human service leaders to adapt, implement, and scale best-in-class, research validated quality improvement systems to advance child and youth development.

Minnesota Compass
Tracks data and trends that affect Minnesotans, including youth.

Ready by 21 initiative
Ready by 21 provides leaders with proven tools and resources based on the knowledge and experience of top thinkers from across the country. Take advantage of blueprints, surveys, how-to guides, Webinars, in-depth coaching and technical assistance to ensure the success of your initiative.

A database of research-based youth development materials, particularly for at-risk audiences. Includes curricula, new and seminal research, technology and program evaluation resources.

Harvard Family Research Project
Research on more effective youth development practices, programs, and policies.

Search Institute
Research-based solutions to challenges facing young people.

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